Tesla: Giga Press


Why Tesla Needed The Giga Press

One machine looks set to revolutionize the future of auto manufacture, and it really is a pretty big deal. Weighing about the same as five space shuttles. it takes 24 flatbed trucks just to deliver it from the manufacturer, and it doesn’t even fit inside the original Tesla factory. What’s it for? How was it inspired by a kid’s toy? And will every single car manufacturer now be forced to follow suit or fall behind?

As we may have mentioned before once or twice on this channel, Elon Musk is a man on a mission. Not content with blasting civilization off to Mars and helping his adorable monkey mate play Pong. he’s also ceaselessly hunting for clever ways of making his day job at Tesla– dragging mankind into the electrical vehicle era – happen faster. His latest big idea was reportedly inspired by a dinky die-cast Hot Wheels toy car on his desk. Wondering, as he is apt to do, what the practical size limit for a die-cast vehicle is. Musk realized there’s no real reason why full-size autos can’t be manufactured according to the same design philosophy.

This is, after all, Mr ‘make the machine that makes the machine’. Finding these sorts of efficiencies is his whole thing. So in crafting the radical Model Y redesign, which will incorporate Tesla’s new generation batteries into the chassis of the latest iteration of cars to roll off the production lines, Musk decided he was no longer happy that the rear underbody comprises a whopping 70 separate parts. Each of these 70 parts has to be screwed, welded, or otherwise glued to its neighbors by the way. That’s a complex and fraught process that consumes a great deal of factory floor space, energy and time, and allows silly errors to creep in. Prominent auto industry engineer and consultant Sandy Munro drove the point home when he toldMusk the back of his Model 3 resembled, in his view, a ‘patchwork quilt’. Tesla: Giga Press

Why Tesla Needed The Giga Press

So in April 2020, Elon Musk announced to the world he’d purchased the two biggest casting machines in the world from Italian engineering firm IDRA, to make giant self-contained parts. initially the rear underbody of the Model Y. The mammoth machines – measuring 20 meters long, by six meters high – were installed at the company’s Fremont. California factory later that summer. According to Musk, these giant Giga Presses – so big they wouldn’t fit in the factory and had to be hastily covered up with a rudimentary shelter in the parking lot – will reduce the number of robots at the factory by 300. This reduction comes with an obvious simplification for Tesla in terms of quality control, and production headaches of producing and pipelining 70 separate parts.That makes the cars cheaper, of course, and thus more accessible for consumers.

Making those 70 pieces fit together like a jigsaw used to require an elaborate and expensive CNC – that means Computer Numerical Control – process. That whole CNC step can be skipped altogether now the whole rear underbody is cast in one piece by the Giga Press. According to experts, Giga casting will help achieve a 40% reduction in rear-under body manufacturing costs. Not only that, the new single-piece casting design will deliver a 30% reduction in the size of the factory body shop.So how does it actually work?Broadly speaking, all die-casting, from toys to golf clubs to Tesla chassis. work on the principle of forcing molten metal into a reusable mold. Once the metal has hardened into the shape of the mold, the mold is opened and the newly shaped metal is removed.

Why Tesla Needed The Giga Press

In Tesla’s case, the metal in question is a sophisticated and unique proprietary alloy comprising roughly 90% aluminum, 8-and-a-half percent silicon. plus traces of copper, manganese, iron, zinc, titanium, and lead among other elements. A natural gas-fuelled oven heats ingots of the alloy to 850 degrees C, at which point it has liquified. Useless slag in the form of aluminum oxide is stripped away before the alloy is pumped along heated pipes and circulated to prevent it from setting. Argon gas and a rotary de-gasser are applied to keep nasty impurities at bay. And the whole mixture is passed through a silicon carbide filter to remove stubborn lumps larger than25 micrometres. To grease up the process before insertion, robots coat the mold’s interior with 35millilitres of soybean oil. The mold is then closed before the pumps create a vacuum inside.

The molten metal is then forced into the mold at high speed, to prevent the hot metal from hardening. With a dash of extra lubricant to prevent it from sticking to the sides. When full, the mold is then opened and cooled to 400 degrees C. The newly shaped metal part is then moved by a robot to a quenching tank, at a chilly 50 degrees C to help it set. A mechanical trim press cuts off any unhelpful excess, to within meticulously established tolerances. Shunting the waste back to be recycled elsewhere in the process, and the whole thing is X-rayed to ensure it’s roadworthy. Final trimming is carried out by lasers, then conventional drills go to work getting the final piece ready for attachment to the car. Sounds too good to be true?Critics have pointed out that a big problem replacing 70 parts with one part is that when the one part is damaged. Say by a careless accident, the entire rear underbody is too awkward and prohibitively expensive to replace. Tesla: Giga Press

Why Tesla Needed The Giga Press

Why Tesla Needed The Giga Press

Elon Musk himself weighed in on Twitter to say the car’s. crash absorption rails can be cut off & replaced with a bolted part for collision repair. If the collision is severe enough the car is of course a write-off. But that’s also true of most other contemporary vehicle designs. Another problem, from a manufacturing point of view. point of view is that inevitably during the casting process microscopic amounts of the mold can get carried off onto the part itself during each casting. Eventually, the mold itself becomes too big, but they’re obviously replaceable parts of the Giga Press. Plus the lubrication stage goes a long way to alleviate this issue. Certainly, Tesla is going all in, suggesting that the current Giga Presses in work or being installed at Fremont, Berlin, Austin, and related machines in Shanghai . capable of a clamping force of 6,000 tonnes – isn’t powerful enough. Tesla: Giga Press

To build the long-awaited Cybertruck. Musk is reportedly shopping around for even bigger machines with a clamping force of 8,000 tonnes. So will other manufacturers be forced to follow suit?Industry analysis by JPMorgan suggests the big companies will struggle to reinvent their own production lines as radically as Tesla can. But smaller EV startups and agile cashed-up Chinese firms will be looking closely and, in JPMorgan’s view, should be investing in their own Giga Presses before long. Any self-respecting 21st-century company will surely jump at the chance to reduce its factory-floor footprint, number of robots, and needless labor hours spent jigsawing vehicles together. So whichever way you look at it, these house-sized machines look set to make a big impression.


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